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Contents: Volume 2 - 3rd Sunday - ADVENT – B –
December 17, 2017


 

The 3rd

Sunday

Advent

2017

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Barbara Cooper, OP

3. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

4. -- Brian Gleeson CP

5. --

6.. (Your reflection can be here!)

 

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1.

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Advent 3 B

Sometimes I think I don't understand the full impact of the Incarnation. God came down to earth to show me (and everyone else) that we are loved and that everything IS possible with God. Each year I seem to "get" a little bit more of what that really means in my life.

This year, right now, I am examining the depth of my own understanding of Isaiah's words, of being "clothed with a robe of salvation and wrapped in a mantle of justice". These words should bring much comfort and true joy! They should warm us sufficiently to be able to act accordingly, to act in a way that mirrors bringing glad tidings to those in need.

As I look at the prior two weeks of Advent and continue to prepare for the very last two, I ask myself how am I personally doing with this universal Christian mission. Is my joy evident? Is my service happening?

In my younger years, I would finish all my Christmas shopping the week after Thanksgiving so I could focus myself and my family on the real meaning of Christmas. That worked fairly well and cut down on the external hustle and bustle of the season. That strategy doesn't happen that intentionally these days even though the family has only grown by one grandchild.

There always seems to be one more thing to do. My grand daughter also said the other day that "our family needs some silence." Wow, is that ever insightful from a nine year old , especially one who is rarely silent or still unless she is reading! Busyness really does not promote joy!

She and I have been reading a great book series together about some youngsters going back in history to convince a famous person not to give up his/her dream and therefore change history (and not for the better). Part of the learning process for the children is to understand the impact fulfilling that dream has had on them many years later. I think that I will present such a scenario to her about Jesus coming to earth to be one of us and save us as well as our task to share those glad tidings. There is a bit of a twist there, but perhaps in the silence of thinking that through, both she and I can find more meaning in the silence, our certain gratefulness, the resulting joy, and then pledge to continue the mission with that joy.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Third Sunday of Advent – A – December 17, 2017

With Isaiah,

The Spirit of God is on you, and me as well.

We have been sent to bring good news to those oppressed

and to heal the brokenhearted,

to announce freedom to captives and release to prisoners,

to comfort those who mourn and give them flowers instead of ashes,

messages of joy instead of news of doom because of how we act,

a heart of praise in place of a languid spirit,

to build, not destroy,

to bring people together rather than dividing them

and to promote peace rather than war and violence.

This is the Spirit Jesus has, and offers to us.

These are some of the "signs" that a person is a Christian in their heart and not just from their mouth. So even if someone offers you all the riches of the world, and all the power and glory of society, for "just a little" greed, selfishness, contempt of others ... it is not from the Spirit of God and will not establish God's kingdom among us.

Paul reminds the Thessalonians, and us:

"Do not quench the Spirit....

Test everything: retain what is good.

Refrain from every kind of evil."

There are numerous voices today, all shouting and pushing for a chance to be heard. The loudest voice is not always true, or of God's Spirit. We need to examine, to reflect, to listen and ask: "Does this pass the "Jesus Sniff Test"?

Then we can stand in peace, and hopefully, become one who God can send to proclaim Good News, to heal, to gather together in love, to plant the good seeds in God's Spirit. And then, "as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so will righteousness and praise spring up for all the nations."

Barbara Cooper, OP

Vancouver Island, BC Canada

bcoop60@yahoo.com

 

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3.

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Third Sunday of Advent December 17 2017

Isaiah 61: 1-2 & 10-11; Responsorial – The Magnificat from Luke; 1st Thessalonians 5:16-24; Gospel Acclamation Isaiah 61:1 (which is cited in Luke 4:18 by Jesus in the Synagogue at Jesus’s hometown, Nazareth); John 1:6-8 & 19-28

If we were Jews living at the time of this prophecy by Isaiah, we’d not be very happy. We would make a mistake if we think of these Jews in slavery and oppression in the cities of Babylon as all being religious. Just as in our time, there are Catholics who strive to grow their relationship with God and man while there are others who celebrate the high Holy Days by coming to the pageants of the liturgy of the Mass. But every Jew living in exile in Babylon longed for the days when they could return to their homeland and to the images of the city high on Mount Sion they could only imagine based on the stories of their parents or grandparents. There were no photo albums in those days. Even those Jews who adapted to the economic realities of Babylon and who became wealthy in captivity, even they had a longing in their hearts and minds for the ‘good old days’ of Jerusalem and the nation of Judah.

The Jews got themselves into this mess by playing both sides against the middle. They surrendered to Babylon’s overwhelming army. Babylon initially allowed them to stay in their homeland leaving the city and the temple intact. But one party in the nation thought siding with Egypt against Babylon would allow them great freedom, a chance at power and wealth, and an influential place among the nations. That party assassinated the appointed Babylonian governor. The Babylonian emperor returned to Jerusalem and literally destroyed the city, massacring men, women, children and any and all livestock within the walls. The city was an utter ruin with no habitable dwellings. The temple was flattened down to the west wall that formed a foundation for that side of the temple. For nearly two generations the Jews longed to return home, the home scarcely a single one of them ever experienced except through the stories of parents and grandparents.

The responsorial is, on this rare occasion, not a psalm, but a song attributed to Mary, the mother of Jesus. After Mary said yes to God’s messenger she went into the hill country to visit her cousin Elizabeth. The messenger had offered as proof of the promise given Mary that her cousin Elizabeth – already an old woman past child-bearing – was with child. Mary went to help her in what must have been a difficult pregnancy. After Elizabeth’s greeting, Mary breaks into a song of praise to God, a tribute to God’s caring about the hungry, the homeless, the poor lacking assets or the ability to gain necessary resources. These poor are the ones whose work and struggles make the wealthy wealthier, the powerful, more powerful, the influential more influential. It is to these weak and poor ones that Mary’s song promises and foretells God is coming. To these God extends hope.

Paul writes to the Thessalonians in our second reading. He spent a couple months among the Jews there. As a result of his preaching a great many came to follow the Way of Jesus. The affection of Paul for these people was great as was their affection was for him. However, Jews in Thessalonica and pagans persecuted Paul to the extent that he had to flee for his life. Paul’s message threatened the social-economic culture of Thessalonica. The joy in the reading this Sunday seems out of place. It seems Paul has failed. Yet he insists the church at Thessalonica should rejoice, give thanks, and speak with God always – for that is God’s will for them. He insists they must embrace the Spirit and listen to the prophets among them who discern what is of God and what is of the world. In this they are to refrain from every kind of evil. He is filled with hope and joy and their lived faith.

In the Gospel from John, we are introduced to the son of Elizabeth, John the baptizer. The evangelist John does not portray the Baptizer preaching repentance. This is not to deny that he preached the need for a change of heart for those who heard his message that the Messiah was soon to come. The evangelizer John chooses to insist the Baptizer is the one promised in the prophecy of Isaiah. The Baptizer claims he is the voice crying out in the desert, making straight the way of the Lord. That promise of Isaiah spoke to captive Jews in Babylon opened their hearts and minds to the possibility of joy, to the presence of hope for a future for the Jews. But the Baptizer insists he is not the Christ, the Messiah; he denies that he is Elijah whom the prophet Malachi insisted would return before the Messiah came. The prophet Elijah, we may recall, was taken up to the heavens in a fiery chariot – according to legend and tradition at the same spot the Baptizer chose to proclaim the coming of the Messiah. John the evangelist only insists that the Baptizer, son of Zachary and Elizabeth, cousin to Mary, is a witness. A witness is one who testifies to the truth of one who is on trial. And what is on trial this Sunday is the hope of the presence of the Lord. What is on trial is the truth of God’s living presence in the world, in the person of Jesus, Divine and Human.

This is the hope of which Isaiah speaks, of which Mary sings in our Responsorial. It is the presence of the Lord and the Lord’s greatness that looks upon the great distance between us humans and God and eliminates that distance by the Word becoming man. Our hearts are lifted up in hope and great joy. This Divine presence, this Divine one is one of us to show us, to demonstrate his great mercy for those who stand in awe of his greatness and loving kindness. He fills the hungry with good things but the rich he sends away empty. Isaiah’s song rejoiced that he is able to bring glad tidings to the poor – like to the shepherds at the birth of Jesus. Those whose hearts are broken by the circumstances of their lives, by the cruelty of their governors, by the struggle for survival and by the rejection of their kinsmen – these hearts the Lord heals. The Lord proclaims liberty to those enslaved and release of those held in the darkness of dungeons. A light has dawned for everyone with eyes to see.

All this is well and good when we look back and empathize with the Jews in the Babylonian captivity: it’s not hard to sympathize with the Jews subjected to the harsh, unyielding violence by which the Romans held the land of Judah: it’s not hard to understand Paul’s love for a people who have seen the light of the gospel and embrace it all the while fleeing from the violence that sprang up from the new way of living of his converts. The Christians in Thessalonica were an affront to Jews and Pagans of that city. Just so, Christians who live the gospel in our time are an affront to the culture of materialism that seeks to make every person a unit of production. The Christian living the Way of Jesus is a contradiction to the way of the world which seeks to make each person a unit of consumption. Jesus’s way is the way of God. This God is a personal God, not a God of production or of consumption. The Father is a loving person, the Son is a revelation of the person of the Father, and the Spirit is the bond that unites the Father and the Son in such a unity that they are indeed one. We are one in the Body of the Lord.

The poor, the broken, the captives, the brokenhearted, and those imprisoned are not satisfied with their condition, their circumstances. The rich, the powerful, the frivolous, the inane cover over their dissatisfaction with things, activities, self-serving relationships. They fail to see what is missing in their lives because they cover up the emptiness with temporary satisfaction. They reject relationships that require self-giving, committed love. In truth, those who know their need are those who seek. It is those who wander in the desert, who cry out in their need who discover God present with them. Sort of reminds us of the Hebrews wandering in the desert who cry out for the presence of Yahweh and find him there in the starkness and privation of the desert.

Perhaps this is where this week’s message should lead us. We study the witness of Isaiah, the song of Mary, the delight of Paul, and the voice crying out in the desert. This voice makes an avenue, a boulevard for the Lord to enter our hearts. The hope of our season is not a king entering the city on a war horse, exhibiting conquering power: the hope of our season is not a merchant exhibiting gotta-have things: the hope of our city is not a magician, an entertainer whose skills and songs and words temporarily excite us. The hope and joy of this season is found in discovered in the birth of a child from among ordinary, working folk. This child is apparently the son of a work-a-day carpenter whose cradle is a feeding trough: whose first visitors are smelly, rough men of field and flock. These are people who live their lives innocent of the machinations and political maneuverings of the world. They are able to see and understand their need for a way to happiness and satisfaction. The lullaby is a chorus of angels, invisible to ordinary eyes, but visible to those who know their need. Peace on earth to those upon who God looks with favor; peace to those who are able to accept God’s election and of receiving his merciful love. The loneliness so many of us experience at Christmas time can only be replaced by hope in a new born Son of Man/Son of God.

There is much to hope for in our world. In these times our lives are confused with so much violence and so much endorsement of violence as entertainment, as sport, and as rights to instruments of violence. Mercy and compassion are subjugated to the capricious will of tyrants some of whom are elected, some of whom purchase their despotism with money, and some of whom take their power by violence. Peace and fullness of life are not the values of the world. The world runs on power and the twin sisters of greed and avarice. The poor, the homeless, the disenfranchised carry on their backs the unmitigated desires of the powerful, the wealthy, the famous, and those who bear evil in their hearts. The burden of nations is borne by the poorest among us, the weakest in our midst, and those excluded from the table of commerce and society.

May the birth of this child reach into the depths of our spirits, lifting us up to a new hope for compassion and mercy. May the Love of God find cracks and crevices within the hardness of our hearts and the stiffness of our necks and so transform us from units of production and units of consumption to real persons, helping us discover the image and likeness of God that resides within us. A child will lead us there. Rejoice in that thought.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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THE POWER OF HOPE: 3RD SUNDAY ADVENT B

Isaiah says: ‘my soul rejoices in my God.’ Paul writes: ’[God] will not fail you.’ John preaches: ‘He’s already among you, the Light of the World.’ All three agents of God want to give us hope, Advent hope.

A cynic might say hope doesn’t help. ‘It’s nice to feel hopeful,’ the grumpy cynic might say, ‘but it’s too thin. You can’t buy anything with hope. It only means that you don’t already have what you want.’

On the contrary! Hope is so important that it can even mean the difference between life and death. Someone you love is seriously ill. She’s so sick that she has gone to hospital. The doctors say that she would come through, if only her attitude was positive, i.e. if only she would want and hope to live. Every time you visit her, she turns her face away and says: ‘Go away, leave me alone! I’m finished! I can feel it in my bones!’

You try to cheer her up. You speak about things you might do together. Go to a party or out to dinner, visit a mutual friend, or take a trip overseas! But there’s no reaction, no interest at all.

The doctors say: ‘We are afraid she’s slipping away. She has no will to live, no hope in her heart.’ She nearly stops eating altogether. Every day she becomes weaker, thinner, and paler. If she doesn’t pick up her spirits and start wanting and hoping to live she really will die,. Without that will from within, all the operations, radiations, chemicals, pills, powders, injections, and pep talks, won’t make a scrap of difference. Slowly but surely she will waste away and die.

We too need hope for our world and hope for our own lives. Think of the thousands of homeless people in our cities, of the prisoners of conscience in filthy jails, of the babies born to alcoholic or junkie parents, of the depressed and desperate young people thinking seriously about taking their own lives. Think of the difficulties in your own family around your own dining table.

Think of the sufferings of millions of people around the world at the present time. Among the many causes of their sufferings are drought and drastic food shortages; fanaticism, civil unrest and wars; bushfires; the scourge of HIV/AIDS, malaria, cancer, and other diseases; corrupt and incompetent governments; and low levels of development. Think especially of the present sufferings of people in the Philippines where the President is randomly killing suspected drug users and drug dealers.

In all such difficult situations, our own and those of others, do we just feel sad and sorry? Do we even come to the conclusion that there is no way out, no hope? Not if we take the word of God seriously. Isaiah says: ‘my soul rejoices in my God.’ Paul writes: ’[God] will not fail you.’ John preaches: ‘He’s already among you, the Light of the World.’

We believe so. We hope so. We pray so. We go on praying that everything will work out for ourselves and others, at least in the long run! And we do whatever we can to bring about that better world that Jesus came among us to promote. A world where no one lives in poverty, where the hungry are fed, where the sick are nursed back to health, where wealth is distributed, where everyone has a roof over their heads, where people feel and relieve the pain of their sisters and brothers, where education and jobs are available to all.

This is a world, in short, where the love of God makes all the difference, that tender and transforming love of God which changes people and changes situations, changes them for the better and changes them for the benefit of all, and not just for the fortunate few!

In these last days of Advent, then, you and I might think of both what we can do and what we will do for needy persons this Christmas, both here and overseas. We will also be on our guard about giving lots of presents to our families and friends, and especially costly presents, which, when all is said and done, nobody really wants and nobody really needs.

Let’s ask ourselves, in short, how can we, like John the Baptist before us, be a witness to the light that is Jesus Christ, the Light of the World?

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

-- Fr. John
 


 

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